For the half-year to 30 June 2014, the IPKat's regular team is supplemented by contributions from guest bloggers Alberto Bellan, Darren Meale and Nadia Zegze.

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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Ambush marketing and mega-events: time to start the debate

Earlier this morning, when the authorities in England's congested capital were busily closing some 30 miles of roads in order to facilitate the movement of Olympic performers (see news posts here and here), their cohorts and spectators, guest blogger Robert Cumming (the Bob Kat) asked "Does over-zealous enforcement of Olympic rights tarnish the games and the associated brands?" From the book review that follows, there is no doubt but that at least one man's answer to that question is an emphatic "yes!".

When reviewing books you can be sure of one thing: whenever you see a book with a very long title, you know that it is the positive outcome of a relationship between (i) an author who is driven by so strong a passion for his cause that he shudders at the thought that the casual reader might not detect his position from the outset, even before the book has been opened, and (ii) a publisher who has either failed to persuade him to settle instead for a short, punchy title that can be memorised by the prospective reader or purchaser -- or who has simply opted for the quiet life and rung up the white flag of surrender in the face of such powerful passion. Well, he's not sure about the publisher (in this case Asser), but Ambush Marketing & the Mega-Event Monopoly: How Laws are Abused to Protect Commercial Rights to Major Sporting Events leaves the reviewer in no doubt with regard to what sort of man the author is.

Dr. Andre M. Louw is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and manifestly not a man with whom to pick an idle argument. He has patiently aggregated and analysed a vast quantity of primary legal sources and secondary materials, ranging from carefully-articulated advice on how to prevent ambush marketing through to calls for it to be left where it lies when there are no mega-events, so that ambush marketing might be governed by the normal mix of laws that regulate monopolies, in which the balance between the protection of investment and the promotion of competition is deemed to be fairly acceptable.  Having stockpiled both the available materials and his armoury of arguments, the author then holds up a mirror to the ugly face of over-protection and over-enforcement.  He rightly asks whether this is either necessary or desirable. But he does not stop there: in Chapter 10, after summarising his position, he makes some very sensible suggestions as to where we might go from here (in similar vein, this reviewer has some very sensible thoughts as to where football governing body FIFA -- which comes in for some substantial criticism in this book -- might go from here, but a respectable weblog is not the place to express them ...).

What does Asser say about this book? According to the web-blurb,

"This is the first book to focus critically on the legitimacy of legal responses to ambush marketing. It comprehensively examines recent sports mega-events and the special laws which combat ambushing. The approach of the book is novel. It does not blindly accept often-touted truisms regarding the illegitimacy of ambushing. The author argues that the debate concerning the ethics and legality of ambushing should be revisited [this reviewer doesn't think this debate ever really happened in the first place], and that lawmakers have simply gone too far.
This book will likely raise eyebrows in sports business circles, and not all readers will be comfortable with the implications of the author’s findings [this reviewer feels embarrassed at not having made a bigger effort to raise the alarm and fight the trend -- though he is slightly proud to see a number of his friends and blogging colleagues being cited]. It makes for an engaging read for anyone interested in sports law and the business of sport, including lawyers, academics, students, sports administrators and sponsorship and marketing practitioners, but especially lawmakers in sports mega-event host nations".  
Even if you're not interested in the law or the ethics at all, but just like a good business read which is laced with financial data and statistics, this book will keep you engaged.  It's well-written and you can virtually feel the energy that has been poured into it. It would be good if this volume achieved its aim. If it does, there will be no need for a second edition.

Bibliographic data: Asser International Sports Law Series. Hardback, xx + 761pp. ISBN 978-90-6704-863-7. Rupture factor: considerable. Website here.

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